Google once considered issuing currency

After discovering legal hurdles, it ditched the idea of 'Google Bucks'

Google once considered issuing its own currency, to be called Google Bucks, company Chairman Eric Schmidt said on stage in Barcelona at the Mobile World Congress Tuesday.

At the end of his keynote speech, Schmidt hit on a wide array of topics in response to audience questions. "We've had various proposals to have our own currency we were going to call Google Bucks," Schmidt said.

The idea was to implement a "peer-to-peer money" system. However, Google discovered that the concept is illegal in most areas, he said. Governments are typically wary of the potential for money laundering with such proposals. "Ultimately we decided we didn't want to get into that because of these issues," Schmidt said.

He also hinted that Google might be preparing for a battle in China once its acquisition of Motorola is complete. "Google's been willing to take on China pretty well," he said, in response to a question about whether Google expected to continue to ignore theft of Motorola intellectual property in China, as Motorola has been doing. The acquisition hasn't closed yet, Schmidt noted. "We've taken a pretty strong position on IP. We are well aware of the issues and we are considering your question," he said.

Google is still waiting for some government approvals of its proposed acquisition of Motorola.

Schmidt, who showed off the new Chrome browser that runs on Ice Cream Sandwich devices, said he expects Android smartphones to continue to get cheaper. Ice Cream Sandwich is the newest version of the Android OS. "We have many partners who are working on phones that will be in the $100 to $150 range," he said. Their goal is to reach $70. While Android phones may sell in the U.S. at about $150 with a two-year contract, they are often several hundred dollars without a contract.

Schmidt also said he hopes that some companies that are using Android but not adopting any Google products will change their minds. Products like Amazon's Kindle Fire use Android, which is available through an open-source license, but don't include the Android Market or other apps that make money for Google. "We hope that people who decided not to use the Android Market will see they'll be more successful if they do so, but it's their choice," he said.

After making prepared remarks that described a future where Internet access becomes a great leveler for even the most disadvantaged and oppressed people, Schmidt sounded only slightly apologetic to one questioner from Iran. The audience member noted that while Gmail is sometimes blocked by the Iranian government, Google itself blocks Android and Chrome from Iran. He asked Schmidt to remove that block.

"The answer is no, I'm sorry," Schmidt said. Due to U.S. policy, Google isn't able to allow those products, he said. "We can't violate U.S. law. I'm with you, but in prison there's no bandwidth," he joked.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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